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The ethics of imperfect cures: models of service delivery and patient vulnerability
  1. Monique Lanoix
  1. Correspondence to Dr Monique Lanoix, Department of Philosophy and Religion Appalachian State University, 401 Academy Street, I.G. Greer Hall, ASU Box 32104, Boone, NC 2608-2104, USA; lanoixm{at}


A rising number of patients require continuing or palliative services and this means that they will need to transition from one model of healthcare delivery to another. If it is generally recognised that patient vulnerability to inadequate services increases when the setting in which patient receives care changes, it is usually taken to be the result of poor coordination of services or personnel. Recognising that an integrated system is essential to adequate access, the point that I put forward in this paper is that the centrality of acute care services affects the way in which chronic and palliative services are structured and, consequently, their availability. I argue that the problem originates in the manner in which some of the foundational concepts of the acute care model are imported into the other models of care delivery.

In order to make this case, I review the three main models of healthcare service delivery by focusing my analysis along three axes: the goal of the care model; the predominant understanding of autonomy implicit in the model; and, the main actors in the care relationship. By examining how the various concepts translate from one model to the next, I discuss what I identify to be one of the main conceptual obstacles to less problematic transitioning, the notion of autonomy and the corresponding view of the patient as an isolated agent.

  • Philosophy of Medicine
  • Autonomy

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